Carlos Merida

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Carlos Merida

Carlos Mérida (Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, December 2, 1891 – Mexico City, December 21, 1984) was a Guatemalan painter and sculptor, naturalized Mexican. It was part of Mexican muralism, but from an abstract and geometric perspective, unlike the narrative and figurative style of the great masters of that current, integrating plastic art within architecture in a permanent fusion between the Western canons of art and elements of the Mesoamerican art. His creative life developed between Guatemala and Mexico. Her daughter was the outstanding ballet dancer and choreographer Ana Mérida.

Carlos Merida’s Biography

Born into a middle class family, his father was a lawyer and his mother, of Spanish origin, was a school teacher. In his adolescence he began to study sculpture, but his teachers convinced him to change to painting. He traveled in his youth to Europe, along with the French painter Carlos Valenti, where he visited the workshops of Amadeo Modigliani, Kees van Dongen and Hermenegildo Anglada Camarasa.In 1919 he moved to Mexico, where he stands out in the renovation of the Mexican muralism. In 1922 Mérida worked with Diego Rivera to paint the murals of the Bolívar Amphitheater in Mexico City. Due to the distance of the Mexican Revolution and the militancy in left currents characteristic of muralism, Carlos Mérida began an early distance from the figurative discursive characteristics to develop a stage marked by the abstraction in the form and its indigenous roots in the themes . At the same time he collaborated as a draftsman with the archaeologist Manuel Gamio. In 1927 he traveled again to Paris, where, derived from his contact with Picasso, Kandinsky, Klee and Miró, he reaffirmed his style in abstract art and constructivism.

He also served as a press correspondent for the newspaper La Epoca, in his hometown, Quetzaltenango, as attested by the records of the Guatemalan legation in France dated June 2, 1927.

Mérida has always proudly published his Maya-Quiche and Spanish ancestry. On returning from his trip to Paris, in 1929, he was appointed director of the National Theater Gallery in Mexico, and three years later he directed the Dance School.

In 1940 he participated in the Surrealist International Exhibition held in Chile. A year later he was appointed art professor at the North State Teacher College in Denton, Texas, and from 1949 he began his research on the integration of the arts, applying the results in the murals he made for the Secretariat of Hydraulic Resources (1949) , for the children center of the multifamily “Miguel Alemán”, of [Av. Coyoacán] (1950).

The most ambitious work developed by Mérida was for the Urban Center Benito Juárez, also called Multifamiliar Juárez. In the latter, the theme centered around a series of Mesoamerican legends about the origin of the world – “El Popol Vuh” (alluding to the ancient book discovered in Guatemala of the Maya-Quiche), “The eight gods of the Mexican Olympus”, “The Ixtlexilt”, “The Four Suns” -. In it he sought an integral plastic integration, adding to the work of the construction of the buildings, “architects, craftsmen and the artist (who) formed a single nucleus, as was done for the construction of medieval cathedrals.” consensus of the researchers of the subject, this was the best example of artistic integration between the architectural spaces and the work of Mérida, since for its realization there was coordination and work between both parties, and the Mérida murals were located in a great variety of spaces, from large panels on the facades of buildings, staircases, roofs and even an overpass for cars now disappeared. As Mathias Goeritz commented:

An extraordinarily happy coordination, of an integration rarely obtained … true harmony.

Mathias Goeritz, quoted by Louise Noelle

This work was mostly lost after the damage suffered by the buildings of the urban center after the earthquakes of 1985. Part of the works made by Mérida, rescued from the rubble, were transferred to an ex profeso monument in the housing unit Fuentes Brotantes of ISSSTE, south of Mexico City.

Remains (located in Fuentes Brotantes) of the multifamily building “Presidente Juárez”.

Since 1950, his art has undergone certain changes and his work offers a style closer to constructivism, as seen in the Reaseguros Alianza building in Mexico City, whose mural “Stylization of Mayan motifs” (1953) is made in glass mosaic. With this same technique, in the decade of 1950 made several murals for commercial and private Mexican companies. Also in 1956 he made, in the Municipal Palace of Guatemala, a glass mosaic (La mestiza de Guatemala). Since then, Mérida alternated the realization of murals for Mexico and Guatemala, in which they dominated abstract and constructive motifs. With the innovative spirit that characterized him, in 1964 he made a stained glass wall in the room “Cora Huichol” (The shrines) of the National Museum of Anthropology of Mexico D.F. and in 1968, another in the Civic Center of San Antonio (Texas) (The confluence of civilizations in America). In 1965 he received the gold medal of the General Directorate of Culture and Fine Arts of Guatemala, and in 1980 “Orden del Águila Azteca” of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico.

More Facts about Carlos Merida

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